Origin of the Secret Rapture Theory

"It may surprise and even shock you that neither the word 'rapture' nor the teaching of a secret rapture is mentioned in ANY Christian literature prior to 1830 -- including the Bible!

"According to Dave MacPherson, author of The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin, the rapture teaching originated in England during the mid-1800s. MacPherson's research reveals that a Church of Scotland minister named Edward Irving was the first to preach the rapture message.

"How the teaching of the rapture came to Irving is an interesting facet of modern church history. Irving, it seems, held a radical position on the use of spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues and prophesying. He believed that these gifts were for the present-day church, and many followed his teaching. However, when disturbances arose in Irving's services during the manifestations of these gifts, the Church of Scotland took action, dismissing Irving from his position as minister in 1832.

"The result of Irving's dismissal was the formation of the Catholic Apostolic Church, which still exists today. The movement grew and became the beginning of modern-day pentecostalism.

"However, in 1830, during one of Irving's meetings before his dismissal, a young Scottish girl named Margaret MacDonald fell into a trance. After several hours of visions and prophesying, she revealed that Christ's return would occur in two phases, not one. Christ would first come invisibly to all except the righteous, then He would come a second time to execute wrath on the nations.

"The teaching of a secret rapture was promoted by Irving on the premise that he had also heard a voice from heaven commanding him to preach it. (Note: Some researchers suggest that Irving's view of the rapture was also influenced by the Spanish Jesuit priest, Lacunza, whose work Irving had translated in 1827 under the title The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty.)

"John Darby, an Englishman and pioneer of the Plymouth Brethren movement, had also been thinking along the lines of Irving. When Darby heard reports of Irving's activities, he traveled to Scotland to talk with Irving and others about the secret rapture. It was Darby who, more than anyone else, developed the scriptural arguments for the doctrine. Darby's view has since been widely popularized in Britain and the U.S. through Cyrus Scofield's notes in The Scofield Reference Bible.

"The belief in the secret rapture has become so widespread among today's evangelicals and funamentalists that many in the pew assume that the teaching dates back to the apostles themselves. Yet regardless of where and with whom the teaching originated -- whether with Margaret MacDonald, Edward Irving, or a Jesuit priest -- this much is clear: THE SECRET RAPTURE THEORY IS OF RELATIVELY RECENT ORIGIN."

-- Steven Kurtright, Bible Advocate, January 1991.

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.